Lose weight in McDonaldland

Fast food doesn’t make you fat. You can eat fast food and lose weight. I know because fast food is an important part of my weight loss and maintenance success. Please don’t start in on me about how unhealthy it is. I didn’t say it’s all that I eat, and if I were to share my food journal with you, you’d see even with my trips to fast food restaurants, my food overall, is a great example of healthy eating for people with no particular health concerns.

I’m on the road a lot and I don’t brown bag. Brown bagging requires planning, something I’m not very good at doing. It also requires time, something I never seem to have, so I need to find another way to get something to eat on the road. If I wait too long to eat, I may eat too much. Getting really hungry causes me to eat too much too fast or choose something high in calories and low in nutrients.

My solution is too look for the golden arches. Yes, you read that right. I’m going to pull into McDonald’s. They’re everywhere so I don’t have to go too far, or wait too long to get a meal.

Fast food restaurants can be the best choice to get a meal. The prices are low and the food is predictable. Menus are limited  we usually know before entering the restaurant what’s on the menu. It makes it easy to plan your meal in advance and stick to your plan. Another plus is most chains are already posting the calories on the menu board which further reinforces sticking to your plan.

When every calorie counts, fast food is a safer bet than finding a small, local restaurant while on the road. It’s easy to get tempted to try something that will put you too far over your daily calorie/fat/sugar/sodium targets because you rationalize you won’t be back another time to try the dish so you better try it while you have the chance.

That same rationale won’t work at a fast food restaurant where the menu items are all the same. Every Mac’s menu is the same in every town. Save eating in the wonderful, small, local restaurants for a time when you’re going to have a special dining experience. Choose fast food when you need a meal fast if you haven’t planned ahead to take a meal from home along with you.

I got to admit, if I had somebody at home preparing and packing meals like this for me, I'd skip McDonald's, but it's up to me to prepare my food, so McDonald's it is.

I got to admit, if I had somebody at home preparing and packing meals like this for me, I’d skip McDonald’s, but it’s up to me to prepare my food, so McDonald’s it is.

It’s absolutely untrue that you can’t lose weight while eating at McDonald’s. You can and it can help to make the whole weight loss process easier. Of course, your success depends on what you order or how much you eat.

The specialty sandwiches are generally not your better choice, at least not as your “go-to selections,” anyway. The more meat, cheese, sauces, and bacon piled between two or more jumbo rolls, the more fat and calories it will contribute to your day. Some of those sandwiches provide more than enough fat and calories for the entire day.

This is not your best choice if you're losing weight is your goal.

Eat fewer of these big, specialty burgers and order the small burger or cheeseburger – at least most of the time.

It’s okay for go for the Big Mac or Whopper once in a while, but if you rely on fast food frequently, they shouldn’t be your “all the time” order. When you do go for the big sandwich, eat it slowly, savor it fully, and consider getting a side salad instead of a super-sized order of fries. Don’t feel obligated to eat the whole thing. Stop when you’re full even if you haven’t finished the sandwich.

Don’t worry about wasting money by throwing away the unfinished portion of the sandwich. Eating the whole thing even though you’re full would be a bigger waste of money. Look at it this way, the money was spent of what you wanted and you ate as much as you needed and you’re supporting your weight loss goal. If you kept eating after you were full, you undermined your weight loss goal. If money is really an issue and you can’t stop feeling guilty about throwing away food, then don’t order the big sandwich.

Fast food got its name because you get it fast. You’re not supposed to eat it fast. Eating too fast can result in eating too much so use some strategies to slow down your fast food consumption. Order a side salad (just add a drizzle of salad dressing) to help slow you down. Skip the soft drink and order water (tap water is free) to reduce the total calories of your meal.

Taking sips of water between bites helps and don’t eat while driving! Driving and eating can be messy and sometimes we push a whole sloppy sandwich into our mouths just to free our hands so they can get back to the task at hand – driving.


Avoid the drive thrus completely or as much as possible. This is especially important on long trips. Breaking up long periods of sitting help to get your fat-burning enzymes working again. Get out of the car and walk into the restaurant to place your order. Sitting down to eat it at a table. Eating at a table promotes slower eating and more enjoyment than juggling your food trying to eat it in the car.

Will you feel deprived to skip the fries? Order the small sandwich and have your fries!  Get a small order and enjoy 5 or 6, then toss out the rest. If you can fit the whole order into your food plan, then enjoy every one, but think about what you may be eating later that day. Will it be worth eating all the fries if you won’t have enough calories left for a satisfying evening meal?

Final advice to make the fast food diet work for you

  • Pay attention to calories. Most of the time stick to the lower calorie choices
  • Have it your way. Ask your sandwich to be prepared without mayo, butter, cheese, special sauces
  • Calories count, but don’t forget that nutrition matters too. Go for more vegetables and protein and less sugar
  • Salads with grilled chicken are a great choice. Use salad dressing and other salad toppings sparingly
  • No drive thrus. Every step helps.
  • Reject offers to add cookies, pies, and supersizing with your order


Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.